Embracing the barbarian: John Chrysostom's pastoral care of the Goths

Jonathan Peter Stanfill, Fordham University


This dissertation examines John Chrysostom's efforts to promote the Christianization of the Goths as the bishop of Constantinople (c. 397–404 CE). Although Chrysostom's engagement with the Goths has long been recognized as a defining feature of his episcopate, it remains astonishingly understudied. In fact, most modern treatments provide little more than a summary of the brief account in Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History. This study seeks to provide hitherto unappreciated depth and nuance to our understanding of the bishop's overall strategy for the Goths, especially with respect to what animated his interest in mission, who were the Goths with whom he interacted, what can be ascertained about the scope of the mission, and how Chrysostom justified this controversial undertaking to his fellow Roman Christians. The first chapter treats the renewed missionary aspirations of the See of Antioch during Chrysostom's formative years, his adoption of this distinctive approach to mission, and his promotion of the apostle Paul as Christianity's missionary exemplar to support contemporary mission in Antioch. The reappraisal of the Christianization of the Goths in chapter two demonstrates that, contrary to the belief that the Goths with whom John interacted were Arians, the bishop would have encountered a variety of Gothic ecclesiastical factions, including a strong contingent of Nicene Goths. The third chapter examines the Chrysostom's establishment of a Gothic parish in Constantinople, and also refutes the prevailing view that his Gothic mission ceased after the Gaïnas crisis. The fourth chapter demonstrates that Chrysostom's Gothic mission further entailed enlisting the support of the Gothic monastery in Constantinople, fostering the Goths' sense of belonging in the Nicene community through their participation in his citywide liturgical processions, and overseeing separate missions to the Goths living along the Danube and in the Crimea. The fifth chapter argues that Chrysostom's homily to the Goths also functioned as a defense of his barbarian mission intended for his fellow Roman Christians, which entailed his rationale for providing pastoral care to the Goths as well as his justification for embracing the Goths as full members in the Nicene church.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology|History

Recommended Citation

Stanfill, Jonathan Peter, "Embracing the barbarian: John Chrysostom's pastoral care of the Goths" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3715401.